While microwaving my leftover pad thai in the office breakroom, I found myself thinking about what an incredible invention the microwave really is. Food can be heated quickly and efficiently, and despite sitting for days we can zap it back to a stomach bug-free state in a few minutes. It’s kind of amazing.
I wanted some data on this, something strong numbers that can be pasted on a ridiculous info graphic about the general awesomeness of microwaves. So I turned to Google, to ask some important questions:
- Do we eat leftovers more often than we did pre-microwave?
- Do we get food poisoning from leftovers less often than the pre-microwave dark ages?
(I did not call my grandpa because I’m at work on my lunch break.)
I was genuinely surprised that I couldn’t bring up any scientific papers or books on either subject. What came up instead was a proposal from 2011 to take all the food waste, burn it up in a gigantic microwave, and use this process to harvest or create various organic materials, such as biofuel.
I thought the BBC article was some kind of prank, because it talked extensively about a Brazilian project calling itself OPEC. Most people know of the economic power OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. This Brazilian OPEC, however, was calling itself the Orange Peel Exploitation Company. Really, how could anyone not take that seriously?
I dug a little deeper, and it turns out the entire thing is real. There’s a scientific paper out there on the catalytic pyrolysis of food waste by microwave heating, which is such a fabulous way to say “burn all the things in a microwave.”
So, no solid information on the effect that microwaves have had on longevity, agricultural economics, or food safety trends can be found easily.
Google thinks that the most relevant answer to my serious questions about how awesome microwaves are is a long ago fizzled out plan by some mad scientist in England who wanted to throw all the orange peels into a gigantic microwave oven and create mountains of ash and orange oil.